After a pause, Nie Qingzhou added with lingering fear, "Step away from the railing a bit and come stand towards me. I'm afraid of heights."

Xia Yi glanced back at the sturdy railing that reached up to people's chests, then looked at Nie Qingzhou, who immediately put on a convincing expression of fear.

She seemed to believe him, and her steps loosened as she walked to stand in front of Nie Qingzhou, accepting the candy from his hand.

"Thank you," she said, and was about to return to the side of the railing. Nie Qingzhou hurriedly said, "...Hey, hey, hey, don't go back! I... I... I saw someone standing at a height, and it triggered acrophobia in me... You know, the thing called the 'high place phenomenon'?"

Furrowing her brows, Xia Yi shook her head.

Nie Qingzhou mentally simmered this pot of chicken soup he'd heard before, and tried to give Xia Yi a mouthful of it.

"Whenever I stood in a high place before, I felt the urge to jump down. When I was a kid, I thought something was wrong with my mentality and couldn't think straight. Later, I learned about this psychological phenomenon called the 'high place phenomenon'. It's because the survival instinct is so strong that the brain goes into overprotective mode to protect us, making us want to get back to the ground immediately, which leads to a misjudgment."

"When I'm standing up high and feel the urge to jump, it's not because I don't want to live anymore, but because I want to live too much."

He gazed at Xia Yi with seriousness and sincerity, and she looked back at him just as earnestly. After a moment, she closed the English reading exercise and asked, "Have you finished?"


"There are still five minutes to class." Xia Yi walked past him.

Nie Qingzhou thought that his pot of chicken soup might not be delivered very successfully.

This Thursday was destined to be an eventful day. At noon, Nie Qingzhou ended up causing a misunderstanding by rushing to the seventh floor, and in the evening, a new moth appeared.

He had been working on an English reading exercise, with the text being Steve Jobs' most famous speech, "Stay hungry, Stay foolish."

Never let go of your appetite to learn new things, stay as humble as if foolish and never consider yourself an expert. This used to be Nie Qingzhou's favorite interpretation.

For people in this time, Steve Jobs had passed away just a few days ago, and the whole world was mourning his loss. It was as if when a person died, everything about him suddenly gained a special significance.

But for Nie Qingzhou, who had come from a decade later, Steve Jobs had long vanished into the distant past, rarely mentioned anymore. Apple's iPhones were as numerous as any other brand's, without headphone jacks, and their prices had become extravagant. He had long stopped using Apple products altogether.

Even if he had returned to this past, the insignificant and ordinary him could not prevent famous people from dying or prevent disasters from occurring.

The urge to smoke had resurfaced, tormenting Nie Qingzhou and preventing him from focusing. He turned around to search for snacks in his bag, trying to think while rummaging. With his future experiences, what else could he do besides helping Xia Yi?

He couldn't even remember the content of the college entrance exam papers anymore. However, with his learning ability, even if he didn't remember certain questions, he wasn't worried about performing poorly. Due to his well-off family background, he didn't have a strong interest in money and didn't pay much attention to wealth opportunities.

He was a person without dreams or ambitions, and the greatest meaning in life for him was to maintain excellence and decency. He was bustling around all day long for this purpose.

Thinking up to this point, Nie Qingzhou sighed wryly. After finishing his snacks, he couldn't help but let out another sigh. In his peripheral vision, he caught sight of Gao Juanmei striding into the classroom with an air of authority.

The dean was here, and it couldn't be for a good reason.

Nie Qingzhou secured his bag and turned around, only to see Gao Juanmei walking directly up to him. She asked coldly, "What were you doing just now?"

Nie Qingzhou was taken aback. "I was... lost in thought."

"What are you lying about? Take it out." Gao Juanmei stretched out her hand to him.

Nie Qingzhou's mind raced, and he finally understood what was going on. He had his back turned to the corridor, and when Gao Juanmei walked by during evening self-study, seeing his posture, she thought he was playing with his phone.

"I don't have anything to show." Nie Qingzhou spread his hands, and said calmly. "I wasn't doing anything."

Gao Juanmei raised an eyebrow, clearly skeptical. "Let me tell you, Nie Qingzhou, don't play tricks in front of me. Take the things out yourself, don't force me to search."

Normally, Nie Qingzhou occasionally brought his phone to school, but today happened to be a day he hadn't. Even if Gao Juanmei turned his bag inside out, she wouldn't be able to find any prohibited items.

"Then go ahead and search, I really didn't bring my phone." Nie Qingzhou stood up and handed his bag to Gao Juanmei.

Gao Juanmei gave a cold snort, not even bothering to look at his bag. She bent down, meticulously searched through his drawers, and then checked his pockets, her expression worsening the more she searched. Finally, she turned her attention to her bag. He kept his things neatly organized, so she quickly finished her search, naturally found nothing.

The eyes of the whole class were focused on Gao Juanmei. Her face turned pale for a while, and she couldn't get off the stage for a while. Setting his bag down, she sternly said, "Impressive, you're quite skilled at hiding things. I'll let you off the hook this time. Instead of studying properly during self-study, why are you wasting time daydreaming? Have you finished all your assignments? Instead of studying, you're wasting time and bragging, and even giving nicknames to the excellent students? If you're not going to study seriously, then get the hell out of here. Go to your home and don't bother attending self-study."

Nie Qingzhou looked at the bag Gao Juanmei threw onto the desk, the messed up drawer, and her stern expression. He couldn't help but let out a chuckle.

Gao Juanmei seemed to have caught his tail,and said loudly, "What are you laughing at? Tell everyone."

Nie Qingzhou looked at Gao Juanmei, and the maddening craving for cigarettes surged within him, interrupting his thoughts and dampening his good temperament. The indifference and contempt he had endured over the past ten days were spinning in his mind.

He spoke in a nearly gentle tone, "Do you really want to know?"

"Say it."

"I was thinking, Dean Gao, you've come up with so many excuses and scolded me so many times, isn't it just because you don't want to admit you were mistaken? The thing you should be doing most, shouldn't it be apologizing to me?"

Gao Juanmei widened her eyes, and she shouted angrily. "What did you say?"

Nie Qingzhou laughed, and said, "Do you think that I, an ignorant troublemaker, don't deserve your noble apology, Dean Gao?"

As the evening self-study class in the experimental class came to an end, the head teacher of Class 1 called the class monitor, Wen Zhong, and the newly appointed academic representative, Xia Yi, to the office to discuss the purchase of study materials. Upon entering the Grade 1 office area, Xia Yi heard Gao Juanmei's furious roar. Turning her head, she was surprised to see Nie Qingzhou.

He stood before Class 13's head teacher, Teacher Li, with his head slightly lowered, his right hand holding his left wrist behind his back. The veins on his neck were throbbing, as if he was restraining something.

The Class 1 homeroom teacher also seemed somewhat surprised. She glanced over a few times and upon recognizing Nie Qingzhou, her expression turned into one of expected understanding. She beckoned her star pupils, Xia Yi and Wen Zhong, to come forward and talk in front of her desk. While the teacher explained the purchase of study materials, Xia Yi's coal-black eyes would occasionally lift, her gaze sliding over to Nie Qingzhou behind the teacher.

From the conversation between Gao Juanmei and Teacher Li, she probably pieced together what had happened. Gao Juanmei with pale face asked Teacher Li to discipline Nie Qingzhou properly, bringing up discipline issues in Class 13, and the conversation escalated as it went on.

Teacher  Li started to sweat from listening. He tried to defuse the situation, saying, "Teacher Gao, you didn't find anything against the rules after all. He might have just said a couple of extra words out of anger. Why insist on a serious confrontation? Nie Qingzhou, apologize to Teacher Gao, and we'll consider this matter resolved."

Nie Qingzhou clenched his lips and gave a soft chuckle, but he didn't speak.

His right hand's fingers continuously rubbed against the wrist of his left hand. His whole demeanor revealed an inner turmoil he couldn't hide.

Xia Yi had seen this state many times during the National Day holidays in November. He must be craving for a cigarette, enduring considerable discomfort.

"Nie Qingzhou, what are you thinking, speak up!" Teacher Li urged.

Nie Qingzhou raised his eyes to Teacher Li. Within his eyes, restlessness and irritation churned, but this agitation was covered by a layer of ice.

"Mr. Li, I'm reflecting," he said slowly.

Gao Juanmei's expression eased slightly, as if she had won a small victory. She crossed her arms and said, "Go on, tell us, what are you reflecting on?"

Nie Qingzhou looked at Gao Juanmei, straightened his back, and smiled as he spoke, "I'm reflecting on whether I've been a butcher."

Gao Juanmei furrowed her brows. She felt something wasn't quite right, but it was already too late.

Nie Qingzhou merely paused briefly and then continued, "I'm reflecting on whether I've ever self-proclaimed myself as outstanding, intelligent, and exceptional, stripping the less fortunate of their right to be human, turning them into livestock, and then using prejudice as a butcher's knife to mercilessly slaughter them? I'm reflecting on whether I've ever wrongly harmed people, but felt it didn't matter, as they were nothing more than livestock in my eyes? When their blood splatters on me, they obediently help me lick it off while trembling with genuine fear. I'm reflecting on whether I've ever been such a despicable and repugnant butcher."

"I was still pondering, I've clearly been wronged and insulted, why am I the one who has to apologize? Why does no one care whether I mind or not?"

"I've reflected, and I've come to understand that in the eyes of you esteemed teachers, I'm nothing more than livestock. Livestock have no dignity; being wronged is excusable, and daring to resist is detestable. So, it's only fitting for me to apologize to the noble butcher."

The entire teacher's office fell into silence, even the other homeroom teachers turned their heads to look at Nie Qingzhou.

His hand clenched into a tight fist behind his back, trembling slightly, as if he was pushed to a dead end.

It could be the craving for a smoke or the continuous accumulation of pent-up anger.

As Nie Qingzhou left, Teacher Li wiped his sweat, fanning himself with a small electric fan and said with lingering fear, "My goodness, Director Gao is already terrifying enough, but Nie Qingzhou is equally scary. Why did I not notice how articulate he is?"

At the neighboring desk, Zhang Zihua, the Chinese teacher from Class 13, was smoking a cigarette. He tossed a notebook over, saying, "Take a look at his journal entry for this week. It's nothing like what you'd expect from someone his age. It's sharp and brilliant."

Mr. Li took the weekly diary and, after reading it for a while, began to sigh in astonishment. He mused, "Did he really write this himself? Considering Nie Qingzhou's level? Could he have copied it?"

"Listen to what he just said. I think he's entirely capable of writing it," Zhang Zihua flicked his cigarette and said, tapping the ash into the ashtray. "Even if he did copy it, it shows that he's starting to care about his performance. If he's got the intention to improve, then as teachers, we should give him a helping hand."

After stepping out of the classroom office, the evening self-study had already concluded. The students in the school who were supposed to leave had already headed home. The emptiness enveloped everything in silence. He lifted his head to glance at the sky, devoid of any stars and moon, as black as a freshly wiped chalkboard.

Nie Qingzhou took a deep breath, then exhaled as if releasing pent-up emotions. He rubbed his throbbing temples while pushing his bicycle.

As he walked out of the school gate, pushing his bicycle, he unexpectedly spotted Xia Yi under the streetlight outside the gate.

Xia Yi wore her headphones as before, the headphone cord disappearing into her schoolbag's pocket. She was leaning over while gripping the handlebars with her head down, her short hair tousled by the wind, resembling a rose caught in the embrace of the breeze. Her feet tapped rhythmically on the ground, and she hummed a faint melody, seemingly lost in her own world.

He seemed to see her at the concert many years later—standing in a small space illuminated by spotlights. Yet, when she opened her mouth to sing, she was like a seagull who owned the entire ocean, with boundless freedom.

"Xia Yi!"

Approaching her with the bicycle, he called her name thrice before she finally turned around. Her deep, black eyes shifted, and then she reached into her pocket, tossing something to him.

The object gleamed, tracing an arc in the glow of the streetlight before landing in Nie Qingzhou's hand. Puzzled, he loosened his grip and discovered a pink lollipop, which should be one of the few he gave Xia Yi at noon.

"You waited here for me just to give me this?" Nie Qingzhou asked, surprised.

Xia Yi remained silent, giving him a brief look before turning around and mounting her bicycle. A push of her foot left a fleeting white silhouette. Hurriedly peeling off the candy wrapper, Nie Qingzhou put the lollipop in his mouth, muffledly saying, "Wait for me!"

The sweetness of the candy melted in his mouth, and the damp night sea breeze of Changchuan blew in. In an instant, his soul seemed to drift into the air.

The restlessness that had plagued Nie Qingzhou throughout the day gradually subsided. He pedaled quickly and caught up to Xia Yi. Watching her riding her bicycle with a serious expression, he genuinely smiled.

At this moment, even the things that had been pent up seemed to have lightened, transformed into topics that could be discussed openly.

"If it were in the past, I might have felt really upset by a situation like today," Nie Qingzhou expressed with a touch of emotion.

Had he been his sixteen-year-old self, still fragile and immature in mindset, he would have been hurt by Gao Juanmei's attitude. Much of his recent anger was on behalf of the sixteen-year-old "Nie Qingzhou."

If that kid were here, he would undoubtedly be deeply affected. Nie Qingzhou couldn't imagine what "Nie Qingzhou" would do in such a situation.

In the past, his eyes were always fixed on those who were more outstanding. He believed that students who performed poorly in their studies were probably naturally disinterested in learning, were lazy, dull, or afraid of hardship and effort, leading to their poor grades.

He had never experienced their circumstances, never knew the vicious cycle they lived in. He had been too arrogant.

"Is this a metamorphosis?" Nie Qingzhou murmured to himself.

Xia Yi glanced at him, his image briefly flashing in her dark eyes. She asked, "Has the craving for cigarettes subsided?"

They've all started talking nonsense.

Nie Qingzhou paused for a moment and then smiled. His mood improved greatly as he nodded and said, "Yeah, thanks to your candy. Thank you for today."

"It's your candy," Xia Yi stated matter-of-factly.

"Not just the candy, but... I suddenly realized that from the very first day we met, you never looked at me with that kind of gaze."

Nie Qingzhou leaned on the handlebars and spoke slowly, "It's like the way Teacher Gao and Teacher Li look at me. You've never looked at me like that. Thank you."

Xia Yi remained silent for a moment, then turned her head away. The light from the street lamps illuminated her in alternating brightness and shadow, making her look like a twinkling star.

She was always not intimate or contemptuous, treating everyone equally.

Nie Qingzhou thought that he was truly lucky to have met her before she became world-famous.

Xia Yi was the sweetest girl with the softest heart in this world. Even though she didn't like to talk much and rarely smiled, it didn't diminish her charm in the slightest.

We've updated the release schedule for this novel. Now, expect 1 chapter daily. Happy reading!


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